By Charlotte Boulanger
Photos by Chantale Lecours
Richard Rivest, owner of Dépanneur Marché des Rapides in St-Liguori, QC, loves to innovate. For example, last April (2015), he attended Le Salon Dépanneurs, épiceries & cie to seek out new technologies. Then in the summer, with help of his daughter Gabrielle, he added ice cream. Now, with Gabrielle preparing to take over the family business, innovation is coming with the switch to computer applications for ordering and pricing.
Technologies aside, the prepared meals section at Dépanneur Marché des Rapides is the main focus of the Rivest family’s innovative efforts. Here they work to change and expand to suit customers’ tastes.
Richard Rivest’s top tips to help freshen up your foodservice program:
1. Provide employees with encouragement and support.
Rivest encourages his team to bring him new product ideas. He offers a bonus at the end of the month to the employee who successfully creates a bestselling sandwich. Recently, the top sandwich suggestion was ‘The Diana’: smoked meat, salami, capicola, ham, bacon, mozzarella, and Diana sauce on ciabatta bread.
He also takes steps to promote a sense of pride in working at Dépanneur des Rapides. “I’m a sportsman. So, I consider myself more like a team coach in the store. I say why we do things a certain way and I encourage initiative and allow room for error. Employees become autonomous and committed. There is real trust that enables us to maintain a pleasant atmosphere,” says Rivest.
2. Create specials, and don’t be afraid to go big.
“To attract clients, we use a tent board outside on which we put a checkmark to indicate the soup of the day”. A catering service has been added. Buffets Gabrielle offers everything clients need to feed 10 to 30 people at home, buffet style.
Combos also encourage higher sales. For example – two soups for $5 or save 50 cents on a sandwich if you buy a soup. You can make a good margin and it also keeps things interesting.
3. Always put quality first.
“Personally, I love food. If I make a sandwich or a tortilla as I like it, there’s meat from end to end. I’ve never fought on price, but on the quality of the products. I want my customers to be satisfied with what they buy,” explains Rivest.
That’s why he makes sure to put this quality on display for his customers. Customers buy with their eyes, so prepared meals need to look inviting to encourage the purchase. For example, the cheese must be placed in the sandwich to avoid colour changes after a few hours under the light.
“When our customers drive past other convenience stores to stop here, it’s because of the quality of our homemade products.”
4. Be versatile with your inventory, and your offer.
“We make the best out of the equipment we have and avoid waste. For example, what does not sell in the ground beef section is used to make a good spaghetti sauce.”
“We are always vigilant about seasonal variations and we alternate salad types,” he adds. “From February to April, sugar camp time, we offer Oreilles de Christ (pork rinds). And people prefer pollock in the summer.”
Get creative. Shake things up with regular menu additions and changes so your customers will be excited to keep trying what’s new.
Change with the seasons. Local delicacies can be a hit at specific times of year, so adjust your line-up to reflect what’s hot in your community.
Share your news online. Post any menu updates online to your store website or Facebook page, so both new and loyal customers can see what’s happening in store.